JAXA to nix "science only" requirement in 1st recruitment in over decade

Kyodo -- Apr 12
Eyeing a future in which it may send poets into space to extol the beauty of the stars, Japan's national space agency is looking to expand its horizons by dropping the science major requirement for potential astronauts as it launches its first recruitment drive in 13 years.

"For the new age, with eyes fixed toward lunar exploration, we will select astronauts based on whether they can adapt to their missions rather than whether they are science or humanities majors," Kazuyoshi Kawasaki, a senior official for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Human Spaceflight Technology department, said during an online event in February.

JAXA, which will launch recruitment for its astronaut program this fall, has in the past looked only to groups such as medical doctors, engineers and pilots but sees future endeavors such as lunar exploration as providing a growing stage for astronaut activities.

At the same time, as it links up with the U.S.-led efforts at lunar exploration, JAXA also faces the urgent task of ushering in a new generation as the average age of its astronauts is now 52.

In a recruitment plan announced in January, JAXA said it would accept graduates of universities, junior colleges, technical colleges and vocational schools, scrapping requirements that a person be a university graduate with a natural science degree and have experience of working three or more years in fields of natural science.

JAXA also is considering changing a prerequisite that successful applicants work at the agency for more than 10 years before they are permitted to become astronauts.

- Kyodo